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Shady Hill School delivers: A commitment to diversity

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Shady Hill School delivers: A commitment to diversity
Artist Ekua Holmes, Shady Hill School Class of 1970.

What impact can an independent elementary school have on one’s later life? My 22 years at Shady Hill School (SHS) have convinced me that these years are precious. One of the hallmarks of an independent-school education is the focus on the individual child and helping children blossom. Engagement, confidence, perseverance, ethical thinking, and mindfulness: for 100 years, Shady Hill has instilled these lifelong traits, believing that it is important for children to internalize them early on.

Our graduates of color tell me again and again how their Shady Hill experience set them on a richly rewarding life journey. Our Head of School, Mark Stanek, recently spoke with SHS alum and Boston Art Commission Board member Ekua Holmes, who entered here in the fourth grade. “I consider my Shady Hill education to be one of the pillars of my life. Teachers taught to the student rather that expecting the student to fit into a preconceived ideal. I felt so supported there that I know it helped me to get my direction and to blossom a lot faster.”

Shady Hill is an independent elementary school with about 500 students in pre-kindergarten (age 4) through eighth grade. The school is committed to stewarding a rich, multicultural curriculum and a diverse, inclusive community. As Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Practice, I help shape SHS’s social justice through-lines and ongoing dialogue. I am energized by the way we work to ensure that each student succeeds here at Shady Hill.

So what does this inclusion and multicultural practice look like? Shady Hill enrolled its first students of color in the 1930’s and has worked unceasingly to increase the diversity of its student body. Diversity is a pillar of the School’s Strategic Plan—we regularly assess school policies and practices related to the many facets of diversity, and the community regularly engages in dialog about issues of race and class. We have several outreach programs in place to hire more faculty of color. We strive to increase the number of faculty of color to mirror the make-up of our student body, where 34% self-identify as students of color. Our teachers pursue professional development focused on cultivating a diverse community. Each year, we send faculty to the People of Color Conference and students and faculty to the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network conference, among others. Our affinity groups for adoptive families, GLBT families, and students and families of color are a very active part of our community. Diversity at Shady Hill, a decades-old parent group, provides advocacy and guidance aligned with our diversity and multicultural goals. The fact that two of the co-chairs are alumni of color speaks to how generations of families return to Shady Hill and enrich the community by sharing their perspectives in meaningful ways. As a tuition-charging institution, we are committed to making our program accessible to families representing a wide range of financial circumstances. Our $2.1 million financial-aid program ensures this access.

Ekua Holmes, reflecting on her years at Shady Hill, highlighted key features that were true when the school began in 1915, that were true when she was enrolled here in the 1970’s, and are still true today. “I loved working with my teachers because they always answered my questions with questions and made me think about what I was doing rather than telling me what I should be doing. They also found ways to make me shine. Having places where I could shine helped me find my place at Shady Hill and in life. Shady Hill touched me in so many ways. For me it was a world of dreams and aspirations.”

Is Shady Hill right for your child? Come find out. Our Open Houses (Lower School, Sunday October 25 and Middle School, Tuesday November 10) will give you an overview of our program and community. To glimpse the school in action, schedule a parent visit with the Admission Office. These are offered weekdays from October to January.